JOHANNESBURG – How quickly things change in sport, especially for rugby in South Africa.
It wasn’t too long ago that the Springboks were public enemy No 1, Allister Coetzee was a terrible coach, and no one wanted to support them.
The Boks won four out of 12 matches last year, which forced SA Rugby to call indabas and similar get-togethers to turn things around this year.
Warren Whiteley has been appointed captain, Coetzee has selected young, in-form players, Franco Smith and Brendan Venter joined the coaching team, and voila – the Boks are everyone's favourite winners again.
There are bigger challenges ahead for the Boks this season, but things look more promising for them than in 2016.
They are playing with intensity, intelligence and commitment, and head into tonight’s clash against France at Ellis Park (5.05pm kick-off) in search of a 3-0 series sweep.
The Boks, with eight home-town players in their ranks, could turn it on the spiritual home of South African rugby. Almost 62 000 spectators are expected to attend tonight's Test (5pm kickoff), which indicates how the support for the Boks has changed over the last 12 months.
“We’d like to see these sorts of crowds each week,” said Coetzee. “It’s great seeing the people have belief in the Boks again.
“A lot of things were said last year, like there’s no more ‘gold’ in the green and gold of the Boks ... well, we’re trying to put that gold back now."
A victory tonight for the Boks over the French would further boost the nation's belief in the men in green and gold, and show they've turned the corner and are on the right track.